Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my “wires tapped” in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
On March 15, on Tucker Carlson Tonight hosted by Fox News, Trump pretty much admitted that he had no basis for these tweets that accused President Obama of committing a felony.
Although Trump claimed he had just found out that Obama had wiretapped him, it turns out that he was referring to an article in The New York Times published six weeks before the tweet.
And although he has called The New York Times a “dishonest” and “failing” media publication, he used it as a source.
It turns out that the January article did use the words “wiretapped” and “Trump” in its title, but it did not state that Trump Tower telephones were specifically targeted by a wiretap initiated by the Obama administration. So Trump either misread the article, or he was lying about its content to Carlson.
Trump’s other source was commentary by Fox News anchor Bret Baier. On the Tucker Carlson show, Trump said he had told himself, “Wait a minute, there’s a lot of wiretapping being talked about.” Indeed there was; in a question Baier put to Paul Ryan, Ryan answered that there was no wiretapping of Trump Tower. So Trump’s other source actually contradicted his tweets.
To reiterate, either Trump is lying or can’t understand what he hears.
On the March 15 airing of “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” O’Donnell predicted that there would be little to no outrage expressed by the media that Trump had falsely accused his predecessor of wiretapping him. It arguably could be an impeachable offense for any other president, said O’Donnell, but little would come of it in the media.
I checked out O’Donnell’s prediction and watched the news on CNN several times. Whenever a news anchor brought up the subject, such issues as whether the base of Trump’s support would care if he were being dishonest replaced the issue of the evidence that he was, in fact, lying and the implications of that.
Indeed, there was no outrage. On MSNBC, O’Donnell’s cable news channel, there was discussion about how FBI Director Comey would “sort things out” about the wiretap charge when he appeared before the House Intelligence Committee. The same discussion occurred on CNN.
It was as if there might somehow be substance to Trump’s tweet that had absolutely had no evidence to support it.
As we know, “down the rabbit hole” is a metaphor for an entry into the unknown, the disorienting, or the mentally-deranging, based on its use in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. (It’s also a slang expression for a psychedelic experience.) And, if we watched CNN or MSNBC and knew that Trump’s tweets were baseless, still we could go down the cable news rabbit hole where logic and facts have no meaning and (at least on CNN) the concept of outrage is unknown.
We are in a situation which Lawrence O’Donnell refers to as “Defining Deviancy Down”—the provocative title of a 1993 essay on crime written by the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY).
A few months after the essay’s publication, Moynihan explained his ideas at a breakfast hosted by the Association for a Better New York, a group of civic-minded New York City movers and shakers: “I wrote that there is always a certain amount of deviancy in a society. But when you get too much, you begin to think that it’s not really that bad. Pretty soon you become accustomed to very destructive behavior.”
It seems the media has become so accustomed to Trump’s lying and making outrageous charges, such as the one made against Obama for wiretapping, that it has begun to think they’re really not that bad.
In response, I must say that I find them to be morally bankrupt. They are incapable of outrage when it is called for. It is as if they are boxers in the political arena, absorbing blow after blow from Trump.
Here are some of Trump’s jabs and hooks:
>> Mexicans are rapists.
>> John McCain is not a real war hero because he was captured.
>> Rich men can grab women by their genitals.
>> The media is “the enemy of the people.”
>> Thousands of Muslims celebrated in New Jersey on 9/11.
>> His inauguration crowds were larger than Obama’s.
>> And of course now, Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.
Blow after blow is delivered to the media by the boxer Donald Trump—and also to us!
Like the media, we become woozy. We want to retreat to a neutral corner or go down the rabbit hole. We want to not have to think, and instead simply seek a cushy pillow to sleep on.
However, we must not go down the rabbit hole where Donald Trump and an exhausted, confused, media would wittingly or unwittingly take us. While outrage is an appropriate response to racism, misogyny, contempt for foreigners, and bullying the weak and poor, it can consume us, as can the noise from the intensity of purposively facilitated shouting matches between participants of much of cable TV.
I recommend the quieter, more reflective analysis on Free Speech TV. I also would suggest reading differing political viewpoints expressed in magazines such as The National Review, The Nation, Takkun, and Sojourners.
Reading and thinking critically might be harder than resting on a feather bed and cushy pillow in a rabbit hole, but it is the duty of a citizen of a democracy.
Indeed, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
Author: Keith Shirey
Image: YouTube still
Editor: Callie Rushton